Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mid-week Mushrooms

This week went by so fast. Work was busy in all the right ways and now I'm an auntie. Yowza!

Sky and I make sure we take at least one night during the week where we're home together on the earlier side with nothing we have to do. This can be harder than it sounds when both of us are capable of succumbing to workaholism and overplanning, but since we made the promise to each other we've been really good about keeping it. It's so easy for us to go in our different directions during the week, and if we only do that our relationship takes a hit: we don't feel as connected, we both get sensitive in the ways we get sensitive, and we can spend the weekend just trying to catch up with each other. So the mid-week rituals are important, whatever they are.

Tuesdays are a night that usually works for both of us. I go to that spin class I recently told you about, come home and make something special for dinner. Which has the added benefit of giving me a chance mid-week to make something fabulous that has no doubt been sitting in the ever-growing pile of Things I Really Want to Cook.

I recently revisited the Culver City Farmers' Market. Hadn't been to that one in a while, and conveniently it's on Tuesday in the afternoon, so should I miss the weekend markets and want to make said husband said fabulous dinner I have a market at which to shop. I love LA! (and if you do too check out this month's issue of Saveur: it's all about LA food!)

There is someone new and very special at this market: LAFunghi. I am going to do a whole post on this guy soon. He's from Germany, was a chef, and now is seriously hosting the most extraordinary mushroom display I've just about ever seen. Pretty much every variety I've ever heard of in beautiful freshness and great multitudes. EXCITING. So when I came across a mushroom sauce I wanted to make and Hark! there was the Tuesday market and Hark! I had found the mushroom guru, I seriously felt all elements of the universe were conspiring to make this Tues night dinner for my husband very extra special.

The sauce was in the LA Times recently, and it was included in an article on polenta. Sky doesn't think he likes polenta, though I have plans for him. He will try it sometime when I make it for dinner guests and he will learn. Oh yes he will. But since he's not a cornmeal convert yet I served the sauce on orechiette pasta along with some long-cooked chard. You can keep the greens on the side or throw them in the bowl with the pasta and sauce. Depends, I guess, if you're a compartment eater or a mix-together-er

So here it is

Wild Mushroom Sauce as adapted from the LA Times article by Russ Parsons

1/2 to 1 1/2 ounces dried mushrooms (he called for porcinis which would be wonderful; i used morels since there were some amazing ones at the market)

2 cups hot water

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half

1 pound fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of creminis, button and several wild varieties like bluefoot and chanterelle and some I don't even know the name of)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced onion or shallot

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon minced rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

dash or two of red wine vinegar

Grated Parmigian

In a medium bowl, cover the dried mushrooms with hot water and set aside to soak until rehydrated, at least 30 minutes. Start boiling the water for your pasta.

Heat the olive oil with the split cloves of garlic in a big skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the garlic begins to brown on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and the salt and cook, stirring until the mushrooms start weeping, about 10 minutes. If the garlic begins to scorch, remove and discard it.

While the fresh mushrooms are cooking, lift the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid with your hand, reserving the soaking liquid. Squeeze the mushrooms dry, draining the liquid back into the bowl and reserving it. Chop the dried mushrooms coarsely. Add to the cooked fresh mushrooms. Decant the soaking liquid through a strainer into a measuring cup, tilting it and pouring slowly to leave behind any grit in the bottom of the bowl. You should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups.

Add the minced shallot and increase the heat to high, until the mushrooms are nearly dry, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the white wine and cook until that evaporates, another 5 minutes.

Reduce the temperature to medium and stir in the tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until the paste is mixed in and has begun to toast, darkening and losing its raw smell, about 3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the strained soaking liquid and gently simmer over medium-low heat (and keep it on the low side of medium low) until the mushrooms are silky and the juices are thickened and creamy, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Any extra mushroom broth can be refrigerated, tightly covered, and added to soup. When you're a few minutes away from the sauce being done, cook the pasta.

Stir in the rosemary and parsley. Taste and add just enough red wine vinegar to give the sauce depth. Add more salt if necessary. Keep warm until pasta is ready.

Drain and plate pasta, top with as much sauce as you desire and some grated Parm, add some greens how you like them and feast away.

Serves 6; or 2 very devoted mushroom fans with plenty of leftovers

We keep our wine-drinking to a minimum during the week, but this would be sooo good with your favorite big juicy red.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Newest Miracle

Sky's brother Brock and our sister-in-law Kristina welcomed baby Dashiell to the planet yesterday

There will be much more to say about him and Kristina and Brock. Sky and I met him last night and we are in love. Wanted to let you know! And say that's why I wasn't here posting on the mushroom sauce I made the night before. You'll get that too.
See you soon.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter of my Imagination

Something I found beautifulThis is the work of Sandra Juto. I just found her site thanks to Orangette, which I read fervently. Sandra has image after beautiful image on her site, on her blog, in her shop. I want to go to Sweden just to hang out in her town, wear her socks and neckworms (and wristworms! in so many colors!), and read the books that inspired her to create this print "Bookgirl"

She also illustrates children's books. I love this one of a Moose for The Ark Project which is a book that is saving wildlife around the world.

I am such an instant fan!

It's her photos, though, like the one I showed you, that I keep going back to. The ones of trees and patterns happening accidentally in glass and window displays that seem so daring to be so colorful when everything is stark around them. It makes me wish we had some winter here in LA. I crave reminders that it's ok--beautiful even--to feel bare and to wait. That the leaves are coming, the ideas are coming, the feeling of being full and lush is coming. Just because I can't see it on the outside doesn't mean it isn't happening. Winter, when it looks like winter, reminds me of that. I seem to need that reassurance this week. You?

*all of this I posted is property of Sandra, of course! Thank you Sandra!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Meaning (according to me): a way of getting somewhere, not only physically but emotionally, spiritually as well

It's really important to have something in your life that transports you from the realm of your everyday and brings you into pure joyful contact with your spirit. This can be lots of different things, and you very may well have lots of tested methods you use regularly---share them with me!! I'd love to try. Some of mine are yoga (hence I decided to teach it so I could hang out with it all the time), certain pieces of classical music and the song Sky's and my bridal party walked down the aisle to at our wedding, desert sunshine or ocean sunshine or pretty much anywhere in nature unadulterated sunshine, there are actually tons. Life is so fun when we let it be, right? For me, though, when I'm in the city and maybe I don't have a lot of time, and part of breaking through to euphoria is literally working off anything that built up on me during the day in my sometimes-crazy head, or after traffic, or I didn't get a job I wanted, I need something I can get to fast, that I can do relatively quickly, and for my physical self I need a good sweat and some music. I get on a spin bike. Preferably one at Eileen O'Connell's class at Equinox Santa Monica. Her class was a huge part of the months before the wedding when my brain was so busy I thought it would combust sometimes, and emotions were high, and I would get on this thing and listen to her songs and literally feel like I was pedaling on those shafts of light above the clouds. I used to run; I don't do that anymore since my knees started not to like it, and I hungered for a long time for that runner's high. This passes it with flying colors for me.

Disclaimer: spinning may not be for you. Pedaling really hard with loud music may not be your way of connecting to divinity. No biggie. Find your thing and do it regularly. And the joys of Eileen's classes, too, are that I get completely euphoric on pop and hip hop songs I very well could have passed over on the radi0--I tend not to be the most on-the-pulse when it comes to popular music, and I never used to be caught dead listening to Top 40. My experience is anything we think we're too good for will come back to get us! Case in point. My ipod, with its hefty jazz lists and Aretha and hip-alternative artists, is now good and full with the likes of Rhianna, Giuseppe D, Christina Aguilera, and many many more.

Some of the songs taking me to heaven recently:
Delirious/ Vistoso Bosses feat. Soulja Boy)
Empire State of Mind/Jay-Z feat Alicia Keys
Numb/Encore/Jay-Z and Linkin Park
anything Michael Jackson (and if you're lucky another great teacher at Equinox Aimee Nicotera will play a 25-min MJ marathon. YEEESSS!!!!)
Slide/Kaya Project (older and different genre but always amazing for those introspective steady climbs)

and remember Nellie? and Paper Planes? Lily Allen's The Fear? Love Lockdown? Viva La Vida? Madcon? and of course you can blast out your tried and true Aretha and Journey and Peter Gabriel and Federico Aubele and Stevie Wonder and and and and.......there is no end to good music. Tell me your current faves!!

Happy weekend.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Desert Hot Springs

What can happen when 2 people really need a break from urbanity, decide late in the game to get away on an impossibly popular weekend (Valentine's Day AND President's Day---JEEZ), have no success finding a room anywhere, but thanks to a wait list spot opening up head to a place neither has heard much of but looks good online? A very happy accident. Sky and I ended up at The Spring in Desert Hot Springs. Remember our camera tragedy? We found our old camera in the trunk of Sky's car so I was able to take a few pix before we left---wish we'd found it before the morning of departure, but at least I can give you a taste.

Desert light, flowers and succulents, snowy mountains in the distance, bands of light. DHS is close to Palm Springs but it's not as happenin' so things are even quieter. And this place has no restaurant and minimal staff so it's even QUIETER. 3 natural pools that get smaller and hotter as they go, one of the only saunas I've ever actually loved (I'm a steam room fanatic but saunas usually make me too uncomfortable---this one, as crazy hot as it could get, felt incredible), one of the best massages I've ever had (I'm clearly into superlatives with this place---when I love something I gush), and buckets of the healing magic of the desert. Sigh. I miss it already.

On our way out we hit some gnarly traffic and both of us needed a bathroom break and the easiest place to stop was, I guess, the capital of In-n-Out. Can't say I've ever wanted to go there, but it seems there are a lot of people who do. It was packed. I'm all for indulging in delicious food when given the opportunity, but I still have a hard time with the fast food thing. But Hey, it was a piece of California I'd never seen before.

You wouldn't know the Spring was hidden in the little neighborhood where it sits. From the second we got there, literally, I felt my body relaxing, my perspective shifting---things one hopes will happen on vaycay. Sky and I slept and soaked and slept and soaked and I journaled and read and he slept some more. We had an amazing talk about the constant conversation I have with myself about letting my life's path unfold and completely trusting that it is unfolding perfectly vs thinking I should know what that path is and be making it happen, and if it isn't happening there's something amiss about what I'm doing or not doing....talked about fulfilling life's purpose and how you do that......conversations that I are so important to me but can feel really stressful in the city. Something about having them out there, with stars and quiet and a palpable sense of whatever it is you surrender to, it was easy to feel open and joyful and not so in a rush to know everything. I recommend at least one deep talk when in the desert, and lots of good meditation time.

Other bits from the weekend:
it's funny to try to talk when your back is on a jacuzzi jet: your voice vibrates as it comes out of you and you sound kind of like a radio robot

Drinks at The Colony Palms are delicious and swanky; dinner is good too but not on Valentine's Day unless you have a reservation and want prix fixe. That would be neither in our case.

Before going in the sauna, apply Moroccan Oil deep conditioning hair mask. Let your hair drink it in while you heat up.

When you need a kombucha or a juice or a large extremely satisfying healthy vegetarian menu, head to Nature's Health Food and Cafe in Palm Springs

If you drink pink champagne with your Valentine, know that he might get crazy and drag you to the casino. It's OK though because while he plays blackjack, you can watch the women who lived through the Mad Men era playing in cocktail rings and coiffed hair and talking like they just smoked their 30th cigarette of the day.

Do lie in the quietest pool you can find, get the sun on your face, close your eyes, and be still. Watch the BS leave your mind and the love of life come in.

Do tell your husband/honey/partner that you love him/her a lot. And tell him/her again and again and again. These weekends get you through the weeks that both of you are running around trying to make life happen and see each other in passing.

Hope you get a weekend away soon

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My 2 New Favorite Words

Alta Langa.

It's not a dance step. Or a kind of wool. It's a region in Northern Italy, and out of it came the deliciousness I had the good fortune to savor on Sunday night at Palate (, one of my favorite restaurants in LA that is, tragically for me, located in Glendale (ie a 40 min drive if there's no traffic).

But before I tell you all about it I have to tell you the other tragedy: our camera. It was overtaken by a wave while traveling in a dinghy in the waters of Southern Brazil at the start of this fine new decade. I feel a sequel to Life of Pi.......It wasn't swept out to sea, but it did get drenched, and it refuses to take any more pictures, so for the moment I am left with my trusty iphone. And had I known how much I would dream of the morsels of Alta Langa I would have snapped them before consumption, but alas, my desire was too deep and the morsels too delicious. So what I will show you is the room at Palate from whence the morsels came.

Not bad for a smartphone!

That's right. Cheese. That's the inviting room where it's all kept at Palate. Tempting you to come back and try everything you haven't had yet while growing a steady list of favorites.

I had dinner at Palate on Sunday with my friends Robin and David who know a lot about cheese. I suggest getting some of these friends. We decided to have a "light" dinner since we were seeing a play after. So of course cheese was the natural choice. We had 5, and all were pretty fantastic. Palate, I love you. But it was the first one we tasted that I keep thinking about. The Tomma della Rocca. From my new favorite place on the planet: Alta Langa. It's a region of Italy making cheese in the French style; they are most famous for a cheese called La Tur which apparently many people know and love, and I am the dimwit that's never tried it. I know what I'm doing this weekend! The Tomma, like La Tur, is a blend of cow/goat/sheep milk. It's semi ripe, and described by Palate as having a fragile and delicate flavor. For me it was like stepping into silk pjs: they look light (as Robin said, like a piece of ricotta cheese) but turns out its warm, luxurious, and something you can sink into for quite a while. David described it as "fermented glory" and "mouthwateringly sour". YES to all of that.

We did sound like Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways as we pulled apart flavors and components; potentially we could have annoyed anyone who just wanted to dive in and eat; but playing the Name that Flavor game does make the morsel of choice last longer.

So go. Now. To Palate (and catch a show at A Noise Within while you're on the block) , or to your favorite cheese store (Beverly Hills Cheese Store is a good one for those of you in this city, Venissimo in Solana Beach and I think there's one in Long Beach is fab too). Maybe pick up a bottle of good Viognier (we had Le Bastide), and thank me later.
Buon viaggio a formaggio; Bon voyage a la fromage

Friday, February 5, 2010

Tipping the Scale

I gave my scale a funeral today. I walked it out of the house, wished it well, thanked it for the role it served in my life.....and it was gone. My husband cheered.

It had become my frenemy: cheering me on when I was down, sending me evil thoughts when I was up. I didn't own one for years, then suddenly, one day I did. And for the last 2 1/2 years, excepting vacations, I have stood on the f%^$&er every single day.

Sure, I could pretend the number didn't matter to me.....but if that was so why was I standing on it???

Taking it out of my house and tipping it into a ready receptacle outside, though, is not a rebellion. It was, for me, a gesture of surrender; a willingness to give up control of one more piece of my life. See, I am very driven, very ambitious, and a hardcore perfectionist. (I can use these early posts to tell you flat out about me since no one is really reading them anyway! I'm sure these qualities will all be evident as we hang out together more) And drive, ambition, and, ahem, attention to good quality are admirable traits to have. But they have a dark side, and that side is called I Want to Control the Universe and I'm Actually Kinda Scared About Things not Going Exactly as Planned because Then I Won't Know if Everything is Turning Out. Do you have this?

So I keep looking for ways I can surrender. WHICH DOES NOT MEAN GIVE UP. Hold my vision of what my Life, Body, Relationships, Career, Money, WHATEVER looks like, and then let go of how it's going to come about. Do the next right thing and let it be. And I do that completely imperfectly. But for now, for today, I've decided that I know how my clothes fit---I'll know if I go up or down. I know how to eat in a nourishing way for my body, and I know if I've been doing that or not. I know if I feel like it's a skinny jeans day, and I know if I don't. But most importantly I am interested in what it is to trust myself, and not some little black rod sitting in a box of metal. I'm talking about freedom, people, something that makes your insides feel like this:

So maybe for today you give up needing to know what your co-worker makes, what your mom said to your brother, what that person you went on the date with last night though about you. Because these are the things that make your life feel like it's this big . (that space before the period). And because freedom, in my experience, does not come in a box.

photo by my dad (thanks Pa!)